In an episode that clearly delineates the ways in which the interests of a fan and the interests of a recapper diverge, we begin with a 20-minute -- I kid you not -- recap of the entire season to date. And we wind up with (I counted!) approximately 25 minutes of actual content, in which Tana's team gives her lukewarm reviews, Kendra's team loves her, and we learn that the two women are not being offered construction jobs, but instead a choice between the Miss Universe pageant and remodeling a pretty house. Which is either disgustingly sexist or wretchedly clumsy, depending on whether it was intentional. At any rate, they do everything they can to convince you that the really odd-looking Tana is in the race, even after she freaks out and cheers for herself and acts even more obnoxious than she's ever been before. But it's Kendra all the way, and indeed, she takes the crown, such as it is. We have swung, in short, from one extreme to the other, from last year's bloated, endless, navel-gazing finale in which everyone down to the ushers at the theater was asked to opine about the candidates, to this year's flash of non-brilliance in which a weirdly unsatisfying season ends not with a bang but with a whimper. Of course, it's not a whimper in which Tana wins anything, so at least there's that. Look forward to the three-page recap.
Okay, there's really no way to say this except to just say it: the previouslys and the first set of commercials take 20 minutes. I'm not kidding. They take 20 minutes. One-third of this one-hour finale consists of Trump voice-overs in which he tells us about things that have already occurred. He reminds us of every fool he's already fired, and he fusses over the stories of the final tasks. You can read all of the recaps for the previous 16 episodes if you like. Because I'm saying? Twenty minutes. Great for those of us navigating the end of threecap season; not so great for those of us who have better things to do than look at each other going, "Oh, yes, I remember that early episode, in which the task was to run a dinosaur-washing business out of Central Park." This makes 17 episodes plus a clip show, people. Ken Burns couldn't drag this out any more. Can we get on with it, before my retinas have to be replaced by futuristic doodads? Because I don't want to say it's possible to make me tired of watching TV, but…really, y'all. Really.
When the long national nightmare of nostalgia is over, we swoop into the live hall, where a big plasma screen is presenting the show logo, and the live band is playing the music -- not the O'Jays' opening theme, but the end theme that accompanies the non-fired contestants back to the suite. "Dum-dum -- dum-dum -- dum-dum -- da-da-da-da-da-da dum-dum -- dum-dum," and so forth. Only they're doing it with sort of a hipster beat that's not working for me at all. I feel like I'm at the worst awards dinner ever. Which, come to think of it, I sort of am. The announcer informs us that we are at New York University, which apparently really needs money to pay for…I don't know, khakis and beer or whatever. ["More like nose rings and beer, but: same principle." -- Sars] We see Tana and Kendra. And it wasn't until a few people pointed it out that I really put my finger on it, but it does look -- and I emphasize look, because I have no information -- like Tana had a little something done between the shooting of the episodes and the finale. Her nose looks different, her teeth look different…her entire face looks more flat and balanced. It's possible that it's just that she had access to proper television makeup and somebody to tell her to make her hair less poodle-rrific, but I'm voting for Extreme Makeover: Iowa Edition.
For whatever reason, the Boardroom set has been rejiggered to resemble a courtroom instead, with Trump sitting up on the bench. It's like Trump isn't just hiring and firing -- he's granting pardons and condemnations. Trump judges you and your mortal soul! To one side of him, and at a lower level (obviously) are George and Boyfriend Bill. To the other, Carolyn and Kelly. Off in the "jury box," scribbling notes to each other and waving to their moms because almost none of them will get to talk, are the previously eliminated contestants, sorted into Magnamians and Net Worthians. Book Smarts! Street Smarts! No smarts at all! And at what would be counsel table, we see Tana and Kendra. I really…don't understand taking a show with an iconic set, like the Boardroom set, and moving the entire thing to what looks like a courtroom. I mean, don't get me wrong -- I love Judge Mathis, and I really, really love Marilyn Milian. But if there's nobody there to look at Trump and tell him he's not fooling anyone and he did too key that person's car, it's just not the same.
Anyway, the audience burns some more time as Trump ineffectually -- and looking rather bored, I must say -- waggles his hand like the audience is supposed to shut up. Of course, Trump doesn't really want them to shut up, because Trump never wants anyone to shut up, because he's Trump, after all, and the more noise you make, the more important he becomes. From the mad cheering, I would say these people clearly believe that they are here to see something else entirely and are about to be sorely disappointed. I'm not kidding -- if you consider the amount of substance in this show, the screaming live crowd will indeed begin to look a little funny. And borderline tragic, because they aren't even going to be here long enough to need a potty break.